Jonah 3:1 open_in_new
And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying,
Ver. 1. And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time] Jonah is a sinner, but not a castaway. God lays him not by as a broken vessel, treads him not to the dunghill, as unsavoury salt; but receives him upon his return by repentance, and restores him to his former employment, gives him yet a name and a nail in his house; yea, sends him a second time on his message to Nineveh; and counting him faithful, puts him again into the ministry, who was before a runagate, a rebel, &c. But he obtained mercy, 1 Timothy 1:13, as did likewise the apostles, after that they had basely deserted our Saviour at his passion; and Peter, after he had denied him, see John 20:22,23; John 21:15,17. The penitent are as good as innocent, Quem poenitet peccasse, pcene est innocens (Sen. Agam.). "Return, ye backsliding children" (saith the Father of mercies), "and I will heal your backslidings," Jeremiah 3:22. The Shulamite returning is as lovely in Christ's eye as before; and all is as well as ever between them, Song of Solomon 6:4. There is a natural Novatianism in the timorous conscience of convinced sinners to doubt and question pardon for sins of apostasy and falling after repentance; but had they known the gift of God, and who it is that saith to them, "Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee," they would have conceived strong consolation.
Jonah 3:2 open_in_new
Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.
Ver. 2. Arise, go unto Nineveh] Begin again, and take better heed; as that Nazarite was to do that had defiled the head of his consecration, Numbers 6:9; Numbers 6:12 .
Unto Nineveh, that great city] See Trapp on " Jon 1:2 " There was no city since, by the estimation of Diodorus, had the like compass of ground or stateliness of walls; the height thereof being a hundred feet, the breadth able to receive three carts abreast, adorned with fifteen hundred turrets. Some think (as Annius and Berosus) that those three cities spoken of, Genesis 10:11,12, Rehoboth, Calah, and Resen, were all included in Nineveh, and they conceive it thus; that when Nimrod had built Babylon, Ninus, disdaining his government, went into the fields of Asshur, and there erected a city after his own name. Raphael Volaterranus saith it was eight years in building, ten thousand men working at it. Quintilian saith, that great Milan, ancient Ravenna, brave Bononia, noble Naples, and other great cities of Italy, are but towers to Rome: but what was Rome to Nineveh? and yet Lipsius hath written a treatise of Rome's greatness; and when the Emperor Constantine came to Rome, and beheld the companies that entertained him, he repeated a saying of Cineas, the Epirote, that he had seen so many kings as citizens; but, viewing the building of the city, he thought, naturam vires omnes in urbem unam effudisse, that nature had showed the utmost of what she could do in that one great city. See Trapp on " Jon 3:3 "
And preach unto it the preaching] Heb. Proclaim unto it (or against it) the proclamation that I say to thee, that I have formerly put into thy mouth, and do now so again, sc. that their wickedness is come up before me, and I am even upon the way toward them to punish it grievously. Flagitium et flagellum sunt sicut acus et filium, Who ever waxed fierce against God and prospered? Job 9:4. This wicked men must be boldly told, Isaiah 3:11, however they take it; neither may God's ministers steal away the word, Jeremiah 23:30, or keep back from the people any part of God's counsel, Acts 20:27, "handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commend themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God," 2 Corinthians 4:2, as becometh his ambassadors.
Jonah 3:3 open_in_new
So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey.
Ver. 3. So Jonah arose and went unto Nineveh] He went not home first to bid them farewell, as Luke 9:61, neither went he another way, as once; it was enough of that once, and he had learned obedience by the things that he had suffered. To Nineveh he goes, though a mere and a lowly stranger, unknown, unregarded, and with a harsh message; such as he might fear would cost him his life from that fierce and furious people. But Jonah feared nothing now but disobedience; and seems to say, as afterwards Luther did, Inveniar sane superbus, excors et mode impii silentii non arguar, Let me be called and counted proud, mad, anything, everything that naught is, so that I be not found guilty of sinful silence, and of betraying the trust committed unto me, by a dastardly deserting the cause of God. Jonah was now of another spirit, and fulfilled after God (implevit post me), as Caleb, Numbers 14:24; for what reason? he had now received not a "spirit of fear," and of bondage (δειλειας, δουλειας, Rom 8:15), "but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind," 2 Timothy 1:7; his Spirit of grace had sanctified to him his afflictions, which else would have been but as hammers to cold iron; as they were to Pharaoh, Ahaz, the railing thief. Aben Ezra saith that as soon as ever the whale had vomited up Jonah he got up and took the direct way to Nineveh; that if God should command him thither again he might be ready, and show his forwardness. It is a very good sign when men are the better for what they suffer; when thereby the iniquity of Jacob is purged, and this is all the fruit, the taking away of their sin, Isaiah 27:9 .
According to the word of the Lord] His call and command, which Jonah had formerly cast behind him, Sed Piscator ictus sapit, There shall be only fear to make you understand the hearing, Isaiah 28:19. Isaiah stood off till frightened; but then he offers his service; "Here I am, send me." Isa 6:8
Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city] Heb. a great city of God, or, to God; which some interpreted dear to God, and such as he would not destroy, Deo chara et cura. Others, a city not idolatrous, though otherwise vicious. Others, a city which God himself accounted great, and looked upon as such. But if to a great mind nothing is great, as Seneca saith (animo magno nihil magnum), what can be great to him who is great, Psalms 77:13, greater, Job 33:12, greatest, Psalms 95:3, greatness itself, Psalms 145:3, and to whom all "nations are but as the drop of a bucket, or dust of the balance? behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing," Isaiah 40:15. Oecolampadius applieth it to the Church of the Gentiles, that "city of the living God." They do best that take it, as we read it, for "an exceeding great city"; like as elsewhere tall mountains and cedars are called mountains of God, Psalms 36:7, and cedars of God, Psalms 80:10 &c., and excellent wrestlings are wrestlings of God, Genesis 30:8. See Genesis 23:6. So the Greeks and Latins call great things divine; God being the measure of all true greatness, διος Aχιλλευς, λακεδαιμονα διαν (Homer). Nineveh, since it was a very great city (of fifty miles around, as Herodotus and Diodorus), so Jonah is often told so; that he might come to it well prepared and resolved; since he was to have a great task and a hard tug of it, see 2 John 1:2 .
Of three days'journey] Not such a journey as a traveller could despatch in no less time; but such as a preacher, pedetentim obambulando, by leisurely walking, might in three days go through (Theodoret); see John 3:4. This is added to set forth further the greatness of the city.
Jonah 3:4 open_in_new
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
Ver. 4. And Jonah began to enter into the city] Having seen God he now fears no colours, dreads no danger; as neither did Moses, Micaiah, Isaiah, Isaiah 6:9,12, Paul, Acts 21:13, Luther going to Worms. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men," 2 Corinthians 5:11, we forewarn them to flee from the wrath to come, Matthew 3:7, we pull them out of the fire of hell, as firebrands, Judges 1:23 .
A day's journey] One of the three days, John 3:3. Not all the three in one day, for haste, as Jerome would have it.
And he cried, and said] Not fearfully muttering his message, but delivering it with a courage, Boanerges-like, able almost to make his hearers' hearts fall down and hairs stand upright, as one saith of Master Perkins.
Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown] The word properly noteth a sudden, inevitable, and perpetual destruction, such as was that of Sodom and her sisters, Gen 19:25 Jeremiah 20:16 Isa 13:19 Amos 4:11. Now we must not think that Jonah said no more than is here set down; that he expressed no condition, such as was that, Revelation 2:5, "except ye repent"; or that like a madman he ran up and down the city (as one did once about Jerusalem, and another lately about London), repeating and thundering out these words only, inconditis et ineptis clamoribus, with harsh and hoarse outcries. God therefore threateneth that he may not punish, and all his threats are conditional, Jeremiah 18:8, if they repent, he will also. This, if Jonah expressed not, yet the Ninevites understood; for else they would never have repented, but despaired (as Judas with his poenitentia Iscariotica), and defied Jonah as an evil messenger sent against them. They might well enough think that if God had not meant them mercy he would never have forewarned them, never have given them forty days' respite: the Septuagint cannot be refused for rendering it three days' (though some have attempted it). It is probable that Jonah omitted nothing that pertained to the preaching of repentance, though here we have it set down in some only. The Hebrews tell us that the mariners also went to Nineveh; and, telling what had befallen Jonah at sea, confirmed his doctrine and sentence against the Ninevites, who thereupon repented. But these, as they affirm without reason, so they may be dismissed without refutation.
Jonah 3:5 open_in_new
So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
Ver. 5. So the people of Nineveh believed God] See the mighty power of God's holy word. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds," 2 Corinthians 10:4, to the laying flat those walls of Jericho, making the devil fall as lightning from the heaven of men's hearts, Luke 10:18. These Ninevites, though rich, great, peaceable, prosperous, profane above measure (as great cities use to be), &c., yet, at the preaching of Jonah, they believed God, and repented of their evil ways; whether truly and seriously I have not to say. There is a historical faith, an assent to the truth of what God speaketh, and trembling thereat, James 2:19; there is also a natural and moral repentance wrought by natural conscience, such as was that of Pharaoh, Saul, Ahab, Alexander the Great, when, having killed Clitus, he was troubled in conscience, and sent to all kind of philosophers (as it were to so many ministers) to know what he might do to appease his conscience, and satisfy for his sin. There are very good authors that hold this conversion of the Ninevites to have been sound and serious (and for this they allege that of our Saviour, Mat 12:41), flowing from a lively faith in God, which is the root of all the rest of the graces, the very womb wherein they are received; the fountain also and foundation of all good works, as the apostle Peter hinteth when he saith, 2 Peter 1:5, "add to your faith virtue," which is nothing else but faith exercised.
And proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth] These were the fruits of their faith; and though but bodily exercises and external performances, yet they might serve both to evidence and to increase their inward humiliation. Ieiunium et saccus arma poenitentiae (Jerome). True it is that hypocrites and heathens may do all this and more, as Ahab; those Psalms 78:34; Psalms 78:36 Isaiah 58:3. The Romans in a strait, ad Deos populum et vota convertunt, commanded the whole people with their wives and little ones to pray and pacify the gods, to fill all the temples, and the women to sweep and rub the pavements thereof with the hairs of their heads (Liv. 1. 3).
From the greatest, &c.] See Trapp on " Joe 2:16 "
Jonah 3:6 open_in_new
For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered [him] with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
Ver. 6. For word came unto the king of Nineveh] I can hardly believe that this was Sardanapalus, as some will carry it, but some other better prince, that, Vespasian-like, was patientissimus veri, very tolerant of the truth, one that had those about him that would tell him the truth of things, and he was content to hear it, and submit to it (Quintilian). Like enough it is, that this was but harsh news to him at first hearing; but when he had well considered it, and taken advice upon it, he set upon a reformation. Our chroniclers tell us of a poor hermit that came to Richard I, A. D. 1195, and, preaching to him the words of eternal life, bade him be mindful of the overthrow of Sodom, and to abstain from things unlawful. Otherwise, said he, the deserved vengeance of God will come upon thee. The hermit being gone, the king at first seemed to slight his words. But, afterwards falling sick, he more seriously bethought himself; and, waxing sound in soul as well as body, he grew more devout and charitable to the poor, rising early and not departing from the church till divine service were finished. If the King of Nineveh had ever heard of Jonah's being in the whale's belly, it might well be some inducement to him to believe his preaching, it might do him no less good than John Frith's book, called "A Preparation to the Cross," brought in a fish's belly to the University of Cambridge a little before the commencement, did to some good people here, that had hearts to make use of it. One grave divine (Mr Jeremiah Dike) gave this note upon it in a sermon before the parliament, over 20 years since: That such a book should be brought in such a manner, and to such a place, and at such a time, when by reason of people's confluence out of all parts notice might be given to all places of the land, in mine apprehension it can be construed for no less than a Divine warning, and to have this voice with it, England, prepare for the cross.
He arose from his throne] Laid aside his state, as the Great Turk also doth, at this day, when he entereth into his temple to pray. Jeremiah 13:18, "Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even to the crown of your glory." This great king could not but know himself to be a great sinner; and that his sins had done much harm: 1. By imputation: for plectuntur Achivi, the people often pray for their rulers' follies, as in David's days, 2 Samuel 24:2. By imitation: for magnates are magnets, they draw many by their example; and as bad humours flow from the head to the body, so do bad rulers corrupt the rest. This conscious and (as some think) conscientious king therefore riseth up from his throne (as Eglon, that unwieldy king of Moab, had once done to hear God's message by Ehud, Jdg 3:20), et qui paulo ante sedebat superbus in folio, nunc iacet humilis in solo, he lieth low, and putteth his mouth in the dust, Lamentations 3:29, laying aside all cogitation and pride of his kingly majesty; together with all soft and sumptuous raiment, that nest of pride, as one calleth it.
He laid his robe from him] Paludamentum suum, saith Tremelius; but that is a cloak which the Roman emperors used to put on when they went forth to battle, and therefore not so proper here (as Piscator thinks), since there was no visible enemy, which makes the Ninevites' repentance the more remarkable. Mercer rendereth it Chlamydem suam, his imperial cloak; the Chaldee, his precious garments. The word signifieth his sumptuous and gorgeous attire, his cloak of state, no less costly, perhaps, than that of Alcisthenes, the Sybarite, sold to the Carthaginians by Dionysius for 120 talents; or that of Demetrius of Macedon, which none of his successors would wear, propter invidiosam impendii magnificentiam, for the exceeding great costliness thereof. This robe or purple and other ornaments the King of Nineveh laid aside, as was fit, in this day of restraint, as a fast day is fitly called. So "the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb," where they had made a golden calf, Exodus 33:6. "For the Lord had said to Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee," Exodus 33:5, that I may determine how to dispose of thee: and this is spoken after the manner of men, who judge by the outward actions, as Genesis 18:21; Genesis 22:12, for otherwise, God knoweth all his works from the beginning of the world, Acts 15:18. But he speaketh this here as if he would hereby judge by their repentance, whether it were true or false. The prophet Isaiah objects it to those of his time for a foul fault, "Behold, in the day of your fast ye find your pleasure," Isaiah 58:3 .
And covered him with sackcloth] And so, as Chrysostom hath it, quod non poterat diadema, id saccus obtinuit; sicut ferrum potest quod aurum non potest. Sackcloth could prevail more than silk, as iron can do what gold cannot.
And sat in ashes] In cinere illo, so Vatablus rendereth it; in that ashes wherein he used to sit when he most mourned. Our sorrow for sin should be the deepest of all sorrows, Zechariah 12:11,13. See Trapp on " Zec 12:11 " See Trapp on " Zec 12:12 " See Trapp on " Zec 12:13 "
Jonah 3:7 open_in_new
And he caused [it] to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:
Ver. 7. And he caused it to be proclaimed] By sound of trumpet, as Joel 2:12; or otherwise, as 2 Chronicles 20:3,4; 2 Chronicles 20:18,20; 2 Chronicles 22:6,7; at which times he that obeyeth not is culpable before God and man, Leviticus 23:29 .
By the decree of the king and his nobles] Who all unanimously consenting to so good a work, iis quibus praeerant, praeibant, became a precedent to their inferiors, who looked upon them (no doubt) as their lookingglasses, by which most men dressed themselves. When Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed, many Corinthians believed also, Acts 18:8. The primitive Christians were wont to pray that their emperors might have good counsellors (Tertullian). Of a certain prince in Germany it was said that, Esset alius, si esset apud alios, He would have been a far better man had he had better servants and officers about him (Bucholcer).
Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing] The whole action of fasting hath its name, both in Hebrew and Greek, צום νηστεια, from abstinence and forbearance of meats and drinks; a toto, if it may be, at least, a tanto et a tali, as Daniel 10:2,3; and as it might be here, till the forty days were expired; besides, that one or more solemn days of total fasting, "wherein neither man nor beast," &c. But why is the beast abridged of sustenance? both to testify and increase the people's lamentation by their lowings and bellowings. Alexander the Great, at the death of his favourite Hephaestion, clipped his horses' and mules' hair, and cut them short, in token of his great grief; he pulled down also the battlements of the walls, that they might seem to mourn with him (Plutarch). So Virgil, speaking of the general grief for Caesar's death, saith (Eclog. 5):
“ Non ulli pastos illis egere diebus
Frigida, Daphni, boves ad fiumina; nulla nec annem
Libavit quadrupes, nec graminis attigit herbam. ”
Let them not feed, nor drink water ] But what they get of themselves without man's care, who is to be wholly intent and taken up in God's service; and so to begin the heavenly life here, the sweetness whereof makes him forbear both meat and thirst. Besides, they took pride in their palfries, covering them with purple and rich trappings, see Judges 8:26 , they catered for the flesh, by fatting cattle and other creatures to please their palate. This they were now forbidden to do by an edict from the king, who interesteth himself in matters of religion; as did also Artaxerxes, Ezra 7:26 (for which Ezra seeth cause to bless God); and Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 3:29 , which the Scripture commendeth, and recordeth as a work of his repentance.
Jonah 3:8 open_in_new
But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that [is] in their hands.
Ver. 8. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth] Let all best means be used for the humbling of the heart; without which what is a humbling day but a religious incongruity (saith one) and a very high provocation; like Zimri's act, when all the congregation were weeping before the door of the tabernacle? The beasts covered with sackcloth were as a house hung with black, to move men to mourn the more. Chrysostom tells us of a custom in his time (and it is still in use among us), that when great men were buried their horses followed the hearse clothed in black, as seeming to mourn for their masters. The coarsest weeds are fittest for fasting days; to show that but for shame we would have none, as having forfeited all; and that we look upon our better apparel but as finer covers of the foulest shame.
And cry mightily unto God] Cry with a courage; let the beasts roar lustily and rend the clouds, as it were, with their clamours; want of food will make them do so. And as God can so speak as that the brute beasts shall understand him, Joe 2:11 Amos 5:8; Amo 9:4 John 2:10; so can they, after a sort, so speak or moan that he can understand them, Joel 1:20 Hos 2:21 Psalms 147:9 : he heareth the young ravens that cry unto him, though but with a hoarse and harsh note; whence also they have their name in Hebrew. Much more will he hear men that cry unto him, if they cry mightily with intention of spirit, and extension or rather contention of speech; if they set up their note, as the noise of many waters, Revelation 19:6; if they thunder and threaten heaven, as Nazianzen saith his sister Gorgonia did; if they bounce hard at heaven's gates, and resolve to wring mercy from God by a holy violence, as Tertullian saith the good people of his time did, Preces fundimus, coelum tundimus, misericordium extorquemus (Tert.). "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much"; but then it must be the working, stirring, labourful prayer, as the word ενεργουμενη, James 5:16, signifieth; that strives and struggles, and strains every vein in the heart (as Elias seemed to do by that posture in prayer of "putting his head between his legs," 1Ki 18:42); that sets to work all the faculties of the soul and all the graces of the spirit; that stirs up dust, as Jacob did; maketh a man sweat, as our Saviour; who, being in "an agony, prayed the more earnestly," Luke 22:44; not without strong crying and tears, and was heard in that he feared, Hebrews 5:7. For such a prayer, when a man cries to God, εξ ισχυος αυτου, mightily, or with all his strength, πολυ ισχυει, it availeth much, it can do anything, as Paul, using the same words, saith, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me," Philippians 4:13 .
Yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, &c.] For else prayer profits not, humiliation is to no purpose without reformation; repentance for sin, without repentance from sin; there must be fruits meet for repentance, answerable to amendment of life, tantamount as repentance, and that weigh just as much as it, αξια; for, Optima et aptissima poenitentia est nova vita, saith Luther, the best and truest repentance is a new life; and if God's people will humble themselves, and pray and seek his face, and also turn from their evil ways, then he will do much for them, 2 Chronicles 7:14 .
And from the violence that is in their hands] Heb. In the hollow of their hands, where it lay hidden, as it were, but not from God, who here bids them turn from their wrong dealing and rapacity. This was their special sin (ut in magnis imperiis et emporiis magnae sunt rapinae), therefore are they charged to relinquish it. It is a speech, saith Mercer, like to that of our Saviour, "Go, tell my disciples and Peter," &c. Tell them all, but be sure you tell Peter. So here, turn from all your evil ways, but especially from the violence that is in your hands. See Isa 59:6 Eze 23:27 Psalms 7:4. The Hebrews understand this text of restitution to be made of ill-gotten goods, or wrongfully detained from the right owners. This, say they, must be done, or the party can be no more renewed by repentance than a man could be legally purified by the washing of water, when he continued to hold in his hand an unclean thing. That of Austin is well known. The sin is not remitted till that which hath been ill-gotten from another be restored, Non remittitur peccatum nisi restituatur ablatum (Aug.). And that of Father Latimer: "Restore, or else you will cough in hell, and the devils will laugh at you. Gravel in the kidneys will not grate so upon you as a little guiltiness of this kind will do upon your consciences." The same Latimer tells us, in a sermon before King Edward VI, that the first day that he preached about restitution there came one and gave him twenty pounds to restore; the next time another, and brought him in thirty pounds; another time another gave him two hundred pounds ten shillings. The law for restitution, see Numbers 5:6,7; the party must not only confess but restore, or he is not a true convert. And this will well appear when death comes to draw the curtain, and look in upon a man. Hence our Henry VII in his last will and testament, after the disposition of his soul and body, he willed restitution should be made of all such monies as had unjustly been levied by his officers. And the like we read of Selimus, the Grand Signior, in the Turkish history.
Jonah 3:9 open_in_new
Who can tell [if] God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
Ver. 9. Who can tell if God will turn and repent] This is the speech of one that doubteth and yet despaireth not, like that of David praying for his sick child, "Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live?" 2 Samuel 12:22. We are staggering, saith Saint Paul, but not wholly sticking, 2 Corinthians 4:8. They that go down to the pit (of despair, as well as of the grave, Isa 38:18) cannot hope for thy truth, but are hurried headlong into hell, as the Gergesites' swine were into the sea. The prophet Jonah was peremptory, that by such a day Nineveh should be destroyed. These men, therefore, had good reason to doubt, if not the pardon of their sins, yet the saving of their city. All their hope is, that this that Jonah denounced was not God's absolute decree, but only his threatening, and that conditionally too, viz. except they repented. This, if they could do, and heartily, they knew not but that mercy might be yet obtained. Keep hope in heart, or the work will go on heavily, Psalms 43:5. Hope is the daughter of Faith; but such as is a staff to her aged mother. See Trapp on " Joe 2:14 " Of God's repenting I have spoken elsewhere.
Jonah 3:10 open_in_new
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did [it] not.
Ver. 10. And God saw their works] i.e. He noted and noticed them to others; or, he saw them, that is, he approved of them. Videre Dei, est approbare. Let God but see repentance as a rainbow appearing in our hearts and lives, and he will never drown us in destruction. But unless God sees turning, he sees no work in a fast, saith one upon this very text. God may say to impenitent fasters, saith another, as Isaac did to his father, "Behold the fire and wood, but where is the lamb?" Or as Jacob did concerning Joseph, "Here is the coat, but where is the child? Get thee behind me," saith Jehu to the messengers, "what hast thou to do with peace?" Confessions and humiliations are our messengers; but if the heart be not broken, if the life be not amended, what peace? The Talmudists note here, that God is not said to have seen their sackcloth and ashes, but their repentance and works, those fruits of their faith, truth in the inward parts, which God eyeth with singular delight, Jeremiah 5:3; as the work of his own Spirit, Ephesians 2:10. Certum est nos facere quod facimus; sed ille facit ut faciamus (August.); and he is pleased to call his grace in us our works, for our encouragement in well doing, and freely to crown it in us, without any merit on our part.
That they turned from their evil way] To which they were by nature and ill custom so wedded and wedged, that they could never have been loosened but by an extraordinary touch from the hand of Heaven. The conversion of a sinner from the evil of his way is God's own handywork, Jeremiah 31:18 2 Timothy 2:25 Ezekiel 6:9. Plato went three times into Sicily to convert Dionysius, the tyrant, and could do no good on him. Polemo, of a drunkard, by hearing Xenocrates, is said to have become a philosopher. But what saith Ambrose to him? Si resipuit a vino, &c. If he repented of his drunkenness yet he continued an infidel; he was still temulentus sacrilegio, drunk with superstition. He recovered of one disease, and died of another, as Benhadad did; he gave but the half turn, and therefore turned at length, and nevertheless into hell, Psalms 9:17. We conceive better of these Ninevites, though some are of the opinion that their repentance was but feigned and forced, as was that of Pharaoh and Ahab, as appears (say they) by the sequent history, by their dealing against the Jews, and by Nahum.
And God repented] This was mutatio rei non Dei, change of intention not of God himself, as is above noted.